Fairly successful personnel, a well-earning doctor later turned his path to spirituality; Swami Sivananda Saraswati’s life is an exemplar of simplicity coalesced with spirituality.
Swami Sivananda was always willing to give his life to the service of people. Swami Sivananda always felt the need to make people aware by sharing knowledge related to the medical field and spirituality.
Born in 1887 on Thursday, the 8th of September, a boy child ascended the earth in the village of Pattamadai located on the riverbank of Tamraparini, South India. Star Bharani was in the ascendant during the birth. He was born in a family of religious people. His father, Sri P.S. Vengu Iyer, was a Shiva bhakta. His mother, Srimati Parvati Ammal, was also a god-fearing lady. Swami Shivananda was their third and was named Kuppuswamy.
Childhood of Swami Sivananda Saraswati
Kuppuswamy as a child was very kind and sympathetic towards people that could be clearly seen in his character, and he was also intelligent and mischievous. He did extremely well in classes being topper and used to take part in activities like singing, gymnastics, and drama. He used to be good in every field. Kuppuswamy was also known for his sweet voice and wonderful memory. He had sung a welcome song on the arrival of His Excellency Lord Ampthill on the Kamarapuram Railway Platform.
Kuppuswamy used to pity the poor and feed the hungry at the door owing to which his character of renunciation was seen from his boyhood. He distributed food to his younger companion, dogs, cats, and birds while he would remain hungry. Spirituality was within him from a very young age, inculcated by his parent’s devotion to God.
As already mentioned how beautifully he would take part in every extracurricular activity during his school and college days, once he had played a character of Helena beautifully during the staging of Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer night’s dream.’
Education and lifestyle as a doctor
Kuppuswamy went to Medical School in Tanjore to study medicine after completing the First Arts Examination. He was an arduous fellow and used to work without caring about holidays taking care of people who could not afford to use health services. He provided them with free admission in operation theatre in Malaya (Malaysia), where he had an assignment to work in a rubber estate. His confidence in his capability was on point when he was proposed to manage the hospital.
Whenever there were any hopeless cases, Dr. Kuppuswamy was the ray of hope, and he was kind, sympathetic, humorous, witty, and soft speaking. He was said to have a charming aura and special gift from God for his care on the patients. Dr. Kuppuswamy attended to the poor without any cost and even covered their expenses after their discharge from the hospital.
He was always there to serve the sanyasis, sadhus, and beggars, attended marriage functions, parties, and other social gatherings he was invited to. The inert spirituality in him was activated when he read a book called “Jiva Brahma Aikyam” by Swami Satchidananda, which was given to him by a Sadhu. After this, he started researching spirituality by studying the books of Swami Rama Tirtha, Swami Vivekananda, Adi Shankara, the Bible, and the literature of the Theosophical Society.
Dr. Kuppuswamy was a great admirer of high-class dress, fancy articles, and jewelry, as well as sandalwood to the extent that he used to wear ten rings on ten fingers sometimes. He would never bargain when entered a shop to buy anything.
He was full of love and respect for people, no matter who they were. One incident was that he took his cook to a photo studio upon his interest in clicking photographs. He gave the cook his own suit, shoes, and hat and had the photo clicked.
Repudiation of normal life
After a thriving career in medicine, he relinquished the material world to walk into the spiritual world, the world he had always kept close to his heart. He returned to India and began his pilgrimage from Benares, where he had the Darshan of Lord Vishvanath. He moved to Rishikesh for solitude meditation after getting advised by the postmaster with whom he stayed at Dhalaj.
In Rishikesh where Dr. Kuppuswamy met his guru Sri Swami Vishwananda Saraswati, who took him as his disciple. The Guru then gave him the order of sannyasa, and the Guru also performed the Viraja Homa ceremony naming the doctor Swami Sivananda Saraswati. Swami Sivananda then stayed at Swargashrama for Sadhana.
During his life in Sadhana, Swamiji stayed in a Kuti without any facilities. He did tapas in that kutis; he fasted and observed silence for days. He used to do Japa submerging himself in the ice-cold water of Ganges up to his hip and came out only after the appearance of the sun. He meditated for 12 hours a day and serve sadhus and look after their health problems. For the same, he started a charitable dispensary at Lakshmanjula in 1927.
Swamiji had established his own organization, The Divine Life Society, in 1936 after returning from his Pilgrimage on the bank of Ganga. He started it from an abandoned cowshed that had four rooms. His disciples got increased, and now the organization has spread its wings worldwide. It was established with the objective of disseminating spiritual knowledge and instilling humanity in people. During World War II, he also started the Akhanda Mahamantra Kirtan to spread positive energy to the distressed mind.
Swamiji commenced an Ayurvedic Pharmacy in 1945 and named it Sivananda Ayurvedic Pharmacy. He did a lot of things to bring spirituality to light and make people understand its importance. He organized the All-world Religious Federation on the 28th of December 1945 and started All-world Sadhus Federation for their welfare. He also established Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy Press in 1948 to provide systematic spiritual training to visitors and resident sadhus.
Teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati
- Get up at Brahmamuhurta (4 A.M.) daily and carry out sadhana till 6;30 or 7 in the morning.
- Sit on asana when you’re comfortable facing east or north for half an hour and gradually increasing the hours. Light exercise and pranayama are necessary.
- Do Japa with any mantra you are inclined to from 108 to 21,600 times daily.
- Take Sattvic food and give up chilies, tamarind, garlic, onion, sour food, oil, mustard, and asafetida. Take food as medicine for the ongoing life and not as an enjoyment.
- Have a separate meditation room and, if not possible, set apart a corner for meditation. Keep the room impeccably clean.
- Take up reading. Read books of all religions.
- Before starting meditation, get by heart some prayers or slokas to elevate the mind.
- Preserve Virya or the vital force. It is all power and money; use it only for progeny.
- Get engaged in Charity.
- Get engaged in Satsang and give up all the bad habits.
- Fast on Ekadashi.
- Observe Mouna for a couple of hours daily.
- Speak truth. Speak little and sweet.
- Practice love.
- Be self-reliant.
- Remember God.